Precautions to take in a home with children and pets
Having a pet at home provides a host of benefits. Pets offer affection and companionship, help us relax and are great stress busters. Studies show that pets help lower our blood pressure, help protect against cardiovascular and other diseases, raise our immunity and help us recover quickly from illness.
Most children seem to have a natural affinity for animals of every kind, and often it is our children who motivate us to get a pet for the family. Growing up with a pet provides numerous learning experiences for children. It teaches them to be gentle, kind, responsible and to respect all living creatures as they learn to care for it. They gain, in turn, a friend who will love them unconditionally, be their confidante and constant companion and a buffer between themselves and the often harsh world around them.
There are, however, potential dangers and hazards to be watchful against to ensure that both children and pets are safe and happy as they live together. Parents need to teach their children how to treat animals, how to look after them and also protect them against common hazards associated with having a pet in the home. Babies and small children should never be left alone with pets, especially those that are bigger and stronger than them.
Leading hazards for children:
- Infections transmitted through bacteria
- Worms and other parasites
- Bites and scratches
- Being knocked down and hurt
- Being smothered (babies and very small children)
Leading hazards for pets:
- Being hurt by wrong handling: hugging, squeezing, being sat or rolled on, being hit, held in unsafe ways, tail, ears or limbs being pulled, rubber bands or ribbons tied tightly round delicate necks, dropped from balconies or windows, being accidentally run over by bicycles or tricycles, etc.
- Overfeeding or being fed wrong or unsafe foods like chocolates, candy, onions, garlic, chewing gum, toffee, etc.
- Choking on small items of food like candy, small parts of toys or chicken or fish bones.
- Eating poisonous houseplants or garden plants.
- Being shut into cupboards, drawers or boxes.
Considering that there are potential hazards for both children and pets, following are some tips to minimize risk for both, so they can live safely together. Children who are old enough to understand should be taught these guidelines and precautions, and younger children should be carefully watched around animals, for both their sakes and the pet’s.
- Teach your child to approach a new pet carefully and gently, as the new arrival will most likely be stressed and frightened.
- Take your new pet to your local veterinarian to have a thorough health examination and have it vaccinated and dewormed. Follow the schedule recommended by your vet to keep your pet healthy and reduce the risk of infections that can be transmitted to the children.
- Provide nutritious food and clean drinking water for your pets.
- Limit contact with outdoor animals that hunt and kill for food or live under unhygienic conditions.
- Keep the pet’s living area clean. If the pet eliminates waste outdoors, clean it up quickly and don’t allow children to play in areas where they will come in contact with pet waste.
- Wash your hands after handling your pet, especially after handling their food or cleaning their litter box, cage or tank.
- Teach your children to wash their hands after handling their pets and especially before eating.
- Spay or neuter your pet – they become less aggressive and also less likely to run around with other animals and bring back disease, infection and parasites. It is also good for your pet.
- Deworm your children regularly.
- Control flea and tick problems promptly for the sake of both your pet and your children. Use safe methods and avoid using poisonous shampoos and lotions, especially around small children.
- Groom your pet regularly and teach your children to groom them as well.
- Keep your trashcans covered and inaccessible to pets.
- Research which houseplants are safe for your pet as well as your child in case they eat them.
- Leave your child alone with a new pet until both have had time to be used to one another and have established a friendly and safe relationship.
- Feed your pet raw meat or allow it to drink from the toilet bowl or other unhygienic sources.
- Allow your children to clean the cage or handle pet litter or waste until they are old enough to do it safely and responsibly.
- Allow your pets in the kitchen or on the dining table or areas where food is eaten or prepared.
- Kiss your pet or touch your hands to your mouth after handling them.
- Share food with your pet or handle your pet while you eat.
- Allow small children to hold pets on a leash by themselves.
- Disturb your pet while it is eating or sleeping; they may scratch or bite.
- Tease your pet, pull its ears or tail or hit it.
- Let pets sleep in the bed with your children, especially very small or very large pets.
Following the above guidelines will ensure that having a pet is an enjoyable experience for both you and your children and the pets are also able to thrive in a safe and happy environment where they are loved and well cared for.